Having enjoyed writer/director Julie Delpy’s charming, Woody Allen-esque 2007 film 2 Days in Paris, I was primed to enjoy her sequel 2 Days in New York. The first film featured Delpy (the star of Before Sunrise and Before Sunset) as Marion, a sexy but aggressively challenging Frenchwoman who takes her neurotic American boyfriend Jack (Adam Goldberg) to meet her bohemian family in Paris. In the sequel, Marion’s family comes to America for a visit. Much has changed—Marion has a new boyfriend, Mingus (Chris Rock), a toddler son from her old relationship with Jack and is about to open a gallery show of her photographs—and I regret to say we’ve grown apart.
(READ: TIME’s review of 2 Days in Paris)
Delpy is still smart and fierce and creative, and all that shows through in spots—her witty take on the vagaries of the art world is astute and Vincent Gallo has an inspired cameo as himself—but this cutesy film is overwhelmed by a sense of forced farce. Everyone in the cast is either playing it zany and French or annoyed and American. Marion’s grizzled father (Albert Delpy, Delpy’s father) beams and bumbles his way through conversations, confusing everyone, including himself. Marion’s flighty sister Rose (Alexia Landeau) has brought along Marion’s ex, Manu (Alexandre Nahon), who no one likes, including, I believe, Rose. Even the ways in which they are irritating feel false, as if Delpy’s only direction to them was to ignore all social cues. (Landeau and Nahon share screenplay credit with her though, so they’re to blame as well.) Meanwhile the unwelcoming Mingus looks on with great irritation; the French house guests are annoying but does he have to be such a lousy host?
(SEE: Where Before Sunrise landed on TIME’s 10 Favorite Romantic Films)
There was a moment, around 2007, when Rock remade Eric Rohmer’s Chloe in the Afternoon as I Think I Love My Wife, when I thought he might be on his way to becoming a decent actor, but that moment seems to have passed. Rock can’t connect with anybody, not even Mingus’ little girl from a previous relationship. His most natural scenes are the conversations he has with a cardboard cut-out of President Barack Obama. Rock just wants to do his own thing, his schtick. The sense of disconnect is particularly painful when he’s acting opposite Delpy. When the actors are in bed together, it’s like watching a youthful drama club acting out a love scene from say, Brigadoon; everyone is tense but there’s no actual sexual tension. Presumably the emotional focus of 2 Days in New York is intended to be on the durability of Marion and Mingus’ relationship, how it evolves, how they react to each other and each other’s families and friends. But it is impossible to care about their future because the actors never convince us the characters are having a relationship. That happens in a lot of, if not most, Woody Allen movies as well, but the comedy and pacing carries the day. It doesn’t here. At least we’ll always have 2 Days in Paris.